Monthly Archives January 2013

Imaging the Orion Nebula (M42)

The Orion is a constellation that can be seen between November and February and is one of the most recognizable groups of stars that can be viewed in the Winter sky.  Since the beginning of Winter, I have watched the constellation rise as the sun sets and last night, I finally got to take my first image of the Great Orion Nebula.  Known as M42, the Orion Nebula is the closest region of massive star formation to Earth and is about 24 light years across and is a stellar nursery, where new stars are being born.

Takahashi Sky90 II, Orion 80mm Guide Scope, Celestron CG-5 Mount and MaximDL 5 (on the computer)

Takahashi Sky90 II, Orion 80mm Guide Scope, Celestron CG-5 Mount and MaximDL 5 (on the computer)

I went out in my backyard around 6:30pm, which is earlier than I usually go out.  The night was clear so I calibrated my mount and set everything up for a 2 hour imaging session.  One of the first things I did before setting the image sequence was to set my mount guiding so the telescope and camera move with the rotation of the stars.  After that was set, I focused the camera.  Since the CCD camera is attached to the telescope, I need to take a series of continuous images in order to verify that the nebula was in focus.  Here is an example of what that image looks like:

Orion Nebula Focus output from Maxim DL

Orion Nebula Focus output from Maxim DL

Once I was happy with the focus, I then set the MaximDL program to take a series of 24, 5 minute exposures using the Hydrogen Alpha (Ha) filter.  I took this image with the Ha filter due to the presence of mostly hydrogen gas...

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Holding a 4.5 Billion Year Old Meteorite, Creating a Comet, and the Rachel Telescope

Last night, our Cub Scout Pack visited the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, CA for a special workshop and tour.  On the tour, we attended a workshop where the kids in the pack got a chance to create a Comet and identify space rocks!  The comet creation process was really a once in a lifetime opportunity and the scouts got a chance to cook one up by following a recipe with the following ingrediants:

  • Water (H2O)
  • Iron and Magnesium
  • Silicone and Calcium
  • Sugar
  • Nitrogen
  • CO2

Each of the scouts was given a task to add the elements into a bowl (Blake added the Sugar)

After the ingrediants were added to the bowl, the scouts crushed the Dry Ice (CO2) into a fine powder and then added it to the mixture.  After shaping the comet, the end result looked like a dirty snowball of ice, gas, and dust, just like a real comet!

Another part of workshop had the scouts identify earth rocks from space rocks.  Each box contained 3 rocks from space.  I held one of the meteorites in the box and it felt really heavy.  Then it dawned on me that I was literally holding a piece of history as this rock has been around since the birth of our solar system over 4.5 billion years ago.  You can see some of metal in rock reflecting in the photo.

The experience at Chabot was amazing!  To top off the night we got a chance to have a private viewing through thier telescopes...

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